South Texas mayor banned from city hall

Poteet_The mayor pleaded guilty to indecent conduct toward two girls and is barred from going to City Hall because it is near a youth center. But he still doesn't plan to resign.

Mayor Lino Donato entered the pleas Oct. 31 to three counts of indecency, cutting short a trial on accusations that he exposed himself to two girls between 1996 and 2000 and improperly touched one of them.

He planned to resign at a meeting a week later, but he changed his mind, saying he wasn't guilty.

As a registered sex offender, Donato is required to stay more than 1,000 feet from places where children congregate, and the Atascosa Boxing Club and Youth Center is less than that distance from City Hall, City Attorney Frank Garza said. Probation officers checked the distance with a tape measure, officials said.

The mayor did not attend Tuesday's council meeting, saying it was the first meeting he's missed in five years. But Donato reiterated Wednesday that he wouldn't resign.

His term doesn't expire until May 2009. He can't be forced from office because he received "deferred adjudication" of his case, which technically isn't a conviction. There's also no rule in Poteet requiring a mayor to attend meetings, Garza said.

Poteet, population around 3,500, is about 30 miles south of San Antonio in South Texas.

"It's a huge issue," said former assistant district attorney Brandon Hudson. "The mayor of the city cannot attend city business because of his status as a registered sex offender."

Councilman Larry Cantu said the mayor needs to resign, although the council can maintain a quorum if Donato misses the meetings.

"The people elected us to conduct business for the city," Cantu said. "It's not right for the citizens of Poteet."

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